Since this time no war between civilized peoples has taken place without trained nurses being found in the ranks of both armies, and at the Convention of Geneva, some years later, it was agreed that in time of war all ambulances, military hospitals, etc., should be regarded as neutral, and that doctors and nurses should be considered as non-combatants. Nursing rapidly became a profession, and from the military it spread to the civil hospitals, which were used as training schools for all who took up the work.
Florence Nightingale’s advice was sought by the Government and freely given upon every matter which affected the health of the people, and it is entirely owing to her influence and example that speedy reforms were carried out, especially in the army.
Her noble work was celebrated by Longfellow, in his poem “Santa Filomena,” often better known as “The Lady with the Lamp”:
Thus thought I, as by night
Of the great army of the dead,
The trenches cold and damp,
The starved and frozen camp,
The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.
Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
And slow, as in a dream of
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.
The Queen followed the course of the war with painful interest. “This is a terrible season of mourning and sorrow,” she wrote; “how many mothers, wives, sisters, and children are bereaved at this moment. Alas! It is that awful accompaniment of war, disease, which is so much more to be dreaded than the fighting itself.” And again, after a visit to Chatham: “Four hundred and fifty of my dear, brave, noble heroes I saw, and, thank God, upon the whole, all in a very satisfactory state of recovery. Such patience and resignation, courage, and anxiety to return to their service. Such fine men!”
Many acts had been passed in previous reigns to improve the disgraceful state of the prisons in this country, but it was left to a band of workers, mostly Quakers, led by Elizabeth Fry, to bring about any real improvement. Any one who wishes to read what dens of filth and hotbeds of infection prisons were at this time need only read the account of the Fleet prison in the Pickwick Papers and of the Marshalsea in Little Dorrit.
Reform proved at first to be a very slow and difficult matter. New laws passed in 1823 and 1824 insisted upon cleanliness and regular labour for all prisoners; chaplains and matrons for female prisoners were appointed. The public, however, got the idea—as in the case of workhouses—that things were being made too comfortable for the inmates, and the Society for the Improvement of Prison Discipline was bitterly attacked.